Sony Pictures Studios is located in Culver City at the historic studio lot established in 1915 by visionary filmmaker Thomas Ince. Eventually becoming MGM’s famous home, the studio lot grew to cover more than 180 acres under the leadership of Louis B. Mayer. Through the years, Sony Pictures Entertainment has renovated and upgraded the studio lot while maintaining its historic integrity, demonstrating the studio’s commitment to preserving its legacy while anticipating the future. Click on any star below to learn more about the studio’s storied structures.
At 160 feet tall, the Water Tower has been a studio icon since it was built in 1937. Visible throughout Culver City from several miles away, it was designated with “Significant” status by the City of Culver City for its historical importance. At 33 feet across, the tank holds 16,000 gallons of water. The great height of the tower creates the pressure needed to distribute the water. Although no longer actively used, the tank is connected to Sony Pictures Studios’ fire sprinkler system in case of emergency.
Built in 1927, Stage 15 is the largest stage on the studio lot. At 42,000 square feet and standing 40 feet tall, Stage 15 is the second largest sound stage in the world. (Only the JAMES BOND 007 sound stage at Pinewood Studios in England is larger at 45,000 square feet.) Stage 15 has been used for many memorable films, most famously MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Sony Pictures Entertainment hits such as MEN IN BLACK I and II, STUART LITTLE, SPIDER-MAN™ and SPIDER-MAN 2™. The stage is also used as rehearsal space for musical acts and for special events and awards shows. In 2013 the stage was renamed The Gary Martin Soundstage in honor of SPE’s former President, Production Administration, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group and President, Sony Pictures Studios Operations who retired after serving the studio for more than three decades.
The Crawford Building was built in 1927. This Spanish Colonial building has been designated with “Significant” status by the City of Culver City for its historical importance. Serving originally as the private dining room for Louis B. Mayer, studio chief of MGM, it was later used as a schoolhouse for young stars like Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowell. Today the Crawford Building serves as office space for such motion picture luminaries producing films for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Built in 1915, the Colonnade is the oldest structure at Sony Pictures Studios (SPS). When Harry Culver persuaded well-known filmmaker Thomas Ince to relocate his studio to Culver City, Culver facilitated the acquisition of the land for Ince, who oversaw the construction of his first studio, named Ince-Triangle Studios, at the current SPS site. Designed in the Greek-Revival style, the Colonnade served as the main, grand entrance to the studio. As the studio expanded under Louis B. Mayer’s leadership of MGM, the Colonnade continued to serve as the gateway to the studio, allowing studio executives, film crew and daily extras alike entry through its hallowed gates. As cars got larger, and Mayer relocated to the Thalberg building, the Colonnade was no longer able to serve as the primary entrance. Given the highest historic designation of “Landmark” by the City of Culver City, the Colonnade remains emblematic of the studio’s illustrious history.
The Thalberg building originally housed the executive offices of MGM and has been designated with “Landmark” status by the City of Culver City for its historical importance. Louis B. Mayer, studio chief of MGM, had an office on the third floor and a private dining room on the fourth. The building was named after Irving G. Thalberg, whom Mayer made head of production at age 24. Considered a “boy wonder,” Thalberg was instrumental in MGM’s early success. He produced high-quality films and introduced production practices that have become standard today, but despite his standing in Hollywood, Thalberg was modest and never allowed his credit to be put on any film he produced.
Thalberg spent many happy years married to film star Norma Shearer, but did not live to see MGM’s new administration building. Born with a heart defect, he succumbed to pneumonia in 1936 at the age of 37. Upon completion in 1938, the building was named in Thalberg’s honor.
The Thalberg building is considered one of the most impressive examples of Moderne style architecture in Southern California and its elegant lobby houses Columbia Pictures’ twelve Best Picture Oscars®. The exterior of the Thalberg building has been used often as a location in film and television productions, such as the set for Peter Parker's high school graduation in SPIDER-MAN™ as well as TV shows such as RAKE.
Stage 30 is best known by filmmakers for its massive 721,000-gallon water tank, which was once filled by the studio’s water tower. The famous MGM musicals starring Esther Williams were filmed in and around Stage 30’s water tank as were other productions such as TriStar Pictures’ HOOK and Columbia Pictures hits SPIDER-MAN™ and MEN IN BLACK II. At 90 feet wide and 100 feet long, the tank is twelve feet deep and has a twenty-foot plunge pit in the center. Covering the tank are plywood on top of individual sections of strong flooring, each supported by four steel beams, so that this portion of the stage can be used at all times.